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Cruelty: Human Evil and the Human Brain

Overview


In Cruelty, neuroscientist Kathleen Taylor explores the factors behind violence, sexual abuse, genocide, and other atrocities. Drawing on history, politics, philosophy, psychology, and especially neuroscience, she sets cruelty in the context of human evolution and our current understanding of brain function. She begins with an example from Lithuania in World War II, in which a young man beat a group of prisoners to death, one by one, as a crowd of civilians cheered. Can the killer and his audience be described ...
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Overview


In Cruelty, neuroscientist Kathleen Taylor explores the factors behind violence, sexual abuse, genocide, and other atrocities. Drawing on history, politics, philosophy, psychology, and especially neuroscience, she sets cruelty in the context of human evolution and our current understanding of brain function. She begins with an example from Lithuania in World War II, in which a young man beat a group of prisoners to death, one by one, as a crowd of civilians cheered. Can the killer and his audience be described as mentally ill? Could we ever be like them? Taylor explores the beliefs, emotions, and even instincts which can lead normally decent and law-abiding people to commit shocking acts of murder. For instance, she shows how movements begun consciously can trigger more instinctive behavior. Men who chase a victim intending to scare him may find that their brains reinterpret the chase as a hunt--and treat the victim as prey. Filled with such insight, Taylor provides a clear, nuanced and thoughtful assessment of human viciousness.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199552627
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2009
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,231,293
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathleen Taylor is a researcher at the University of Oxford, and the author of Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control.

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Table of Contents

List of figures

Introduction Cruelty in Context 1

Ch. 1 What is cruelty? 19

Ch. 2 Quis judicat? Who decides? 43

Ch. 3 Why does cruelty exist? 63

Ch. 4 How do we come to act? 90

Ch. 5 How do we come to feel? 118

Ch. 6 How do we come to believe? 144

Ch. 7 Why are we callous? 170

Ch. 8 Why does sadism exist? 203

Ch. 9 Can we stop being cruel? 233

Notes 266

Bibliography 300

Index 333

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